Press Review

There is no one story which dominates Wednesday's Czech press, though all the papers do feature photos of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla meeting Tony Blair in Downing Street. The aftermath of the theatre siege in Moscow also receives a lot of attention.

PRAVO reports that despite the fact that the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union is drawing ever closer, senior state officials have resisted a government order to improve their language skills, and less than a quarter of them speak foreign languages as well as they should.

The daily carries a list of ministries, and figures for the percentage of staff who have passed language tests. The Foreign Ministry scores highest at 90 percent, with the Defence Ministry not far behind. At the other end of the scale, less than three percent of employees at the Agriculture Ministry have met language requirements, though that's still better than the Ministry of Culture with zero.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on the funeral of elderly priest Cyril Vrbik, who was murdered with an axe outside his parochial house last week. A packed church in Dub nad Moravou north Moravia heard Archbishop Jan Graubner describe the priest as a martyr. Most parishioners, reports the daily, were still too shocked to comment on the brutal murder.

With Christmas decorations already up in some shops, MLADA FRONTA DNES reports that this year Czechs will spend billions of crowns buying presents in installments. Sellers have improved conditions and are advertising heavily in an effort to convince Czechs that it makes sense to buy on the "never never". In a country of ten million, there are already over a million hire purchase contracts, says the daily.

Vaclav Havel is standing in local elections in Ostrava next weekend, and what's more for the Communist Party writes LIDOVE NOVINY. Confused? Well, it's a different Vaclav Havel, a retired former employee of Vitkovice steelworks. The Communist Vaclav Havel recalls how his colleagues made fun when his dissident namesake was in prison.

After 1989, drunk pranksters would phone the Ostrava Havel for a laugh at three in the morning, and some of his friends even suggested he change his name. Let the other one change his name was his reply, writes LIDOVE NOVINY.

"The Senate needs a sex therapist" reads an attention-grabbing headline in PRAVO. So says sex therapist Petr Weiss, who is running in Senate elections in Prague 1 for the Civic Democrats. Mr Weiss's party colleague, MP Jaroslav Zverina, is the only qualified sex therapist in the lower house, and the Senate candidate tells the daily that the upper house deserves one too.